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Guest Post: Shots and Sounds

4 Aug

This is a guest post from my friend Nuri of Write Light. Her blog has tons of beautiful photography and music, so I’d recommend that you check it out if you like what you see here!

first, a big shoutout and thank you to tara for asking me to guest post while she’s globetrotting. i hope this is the beginning of many frequent trips for her; it’s been almost six years to the day since i’ve used my passport and i yearn to give it some exercise on the daily. here are some of my favorite travel-related photos shared on flickr. and a song to go with each, since no trip is complete without music.

Priya's little musical box

priya’s little musical box by leclercle | bingo, m.i.a. [x]




Green dinner under the olive trees...

green dinner under the olive trees by gardawind | lonely, yael naim [x]




Farah & Azwanie

farah & azwanie by alex photojournals | latika’s theme, slumdog millionaire soundtrack [x]




asphalt falls.

asphalt falls by darren j. ryan | feels like today, rascal flatts [x]





park by needlessspaces | horchata, vampire weekend [x]




Infinite wishes

infinite wishes by arjun | nag champa, suite for ma dukes orchestra/the sounds of vtech [x]




super sundae

super sundae by exodus photography | smile, janelle monae [x]


i for one can’t wait to see what images tara comes back with!


Guest Post: Overwhelmed, Overworked and Over It!

2 Aug

Note from Tara M: Hey guys! I got this clipping about Madly About Me Day way back when after I published my first (!) post, My Self Happiness Manifesto. I thought it was a great article, so I’m posting it here. Enjoy!

One woman’s solution to the crisis of the modern day woman

An interview with Christine Arylo, self-love expert. Written by Sara Batterson.

Feed the kids. Get a raise. Lose the weight. Clean the house. Wear the lingerie. Whew! It is tiring being a woman these days. We have more opportunities, self-confidence and independence than any generation of women before, yet something isn’t working. Why is it so exhausting? How is it that the last 30 years of unparalleled equality has also had the unintended impact of liberating women into a new jail cell?

The answer is pretty straightforward according to Christine Arylo, recovering achievement junkie and doing addict turned inspirational catalyst, author, coach and speaker…we are currently experiencing a “crisis of self-love.”

“Women today face challenges and pressures like no other generation,” she says. “The 21st century woman has more opportunities, self-confidence and independence than any generation of women before, yet something isn’t working. While this woman knows she can do anything, she feels a tremendous pressure to do, be and have everything.”

A recent study by Time Magazine states that 40% of women are the major breadwinners in their families, and 55% report that they still take care of most of the responsibilities at home. Add to that fact that 68% of women see a conflict between working and raising a family, and you can understand why so many women are exhausted, overwhelmed and no happier than their mothers and grandmothers were in the 1970s.

While more self-esteem programs are taught to girls all over this country, one in three women will be in an abusive relationship before she is 20, 80% will return. One in five women will struggle with some type of an eating disorder. Almost 50% of women will go through a divorce.

“The state of being a woman in today’s world is at a point of crisis, one in which women find themselves abundant in self-confidence, but lacking in a deep and unwavering sense of self-love, void of the societal systems to support the demands she faces every day, and a missing the camaraderie and unconditional support of other women,” Arylo says. “This lifestyle is unsustainable. We all feel it. We all know it. The time is now to bring the generations of wisdom together to do something about it.”

Arylo is on a mission to tear down the walls of misconception about self-love and reclaim its real definition.

“If you actually look up the definition of self-love on it say’s ‘vanity, conceit, and narcissism.’ It’s crazy! We wouldn’t tell our kids, ‘Hey you, don’t take care of yourself, don’t love yourself, don’t make your happiness a priority.’ But we tell ourselves that all the time,” she says.

While writing her book Choosing Me Before We, Every Woman’s Guide to Life and Love Arylo decided that what women needed was a self-love movement, something that could raise the awareness of self-love, making it a tangible and attainable reality for all women and girls. And so in 2009, she founded Madly in Love with ME™, the international movement of self-love.

About Madly in Love with ME

Madly in Love with ME launches every year on the day before Valentine’s Day. On February 13th Arylo asks every woman and girl to make a promise of self-love to herself for the year, and to recommit to a life-long self-love promise to know and honor what her heart and soul desire, never settling for less.

“Without self-love, we end up in relationships and lives that don’t support or respect us, that take more than they give and that reflect our own lack of deep unconditional love for the woman we are right now, today.” she says.

“Get clear about the areas that you do love about yourself and the areas that you don’t,” Arylo says. “Put energy into both and make it a practice.”

Arylo encourages women to start with a 40-day self-love practice in any area of her life needing more self-love – having better relationships, taking care of yourself first, treating your body like a temple, expressing yourself fully. “The yogis, metaphysicians and brain scientists agree,” explains Arylo, “that if you can do anything for 40 days you can alter patterns and beliefs that have the power to change your life.”

Arylo gives an example of a 40-day self–love practice focused on relationships.

“Ask yourself, ‘Does every relationship in my life honor and respect me?’ If the answer is no, you owe it to yourself to straighten out those relationships, or let go of the ones you can’t improve. There is no reason to have a relationship in your life that doesn’t support you to be the best you or create the life you want to live. The only reason to have a relationship is because it helps you be a better person, or it helps you live your dreams.”

“Be honest with yourself. So many of us say our lives are ‘fine’ but when you truly look at our relationships – friendships, romantic relationships, relatives – that really isn’t the case. We often refuse to face the truth because we are afraid of what the truth will require us to do. For example, we aren’t really afraid to end a relationship, we are more afraid of what people will think. We are deathly afraid of being alone. And many people can’t handle feeling like a failure. But, self-love requires self honesty,” she says. “It’s not an option.”

“When it comes to self-love and relationships, I believe that every woman, no matter how successful or beautiful she is, desires to be deeply loved. And that love has to start with herself,” she says. “Learning how to both give and receive love, to both have strong boundaries and be vulnerable enough to freely love, is a practice, one that all women can benefit from. And one that you may need some help with.”

“One of the reasons I wrote Choosing ME before WE and started the Madly in Love with ME movement, is to give women a place to connect with other women and learn from each other. We all face the same struggles and challenges, the details just look different. But when we reach out for inspiration, support and wisdom we have the power to change our lives. It is said that it will be women that change this world. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t change anything.”

“Begin by asking yourself what you really want in life,” she says. “Then start taking the action steps to fall more and more madly in love…with you.”

About Christine Arylo

Christine Arylo is an inspirational catalyst, m.b.a, coach, teacher and speaker. Author of Choosing ME before WE, Arylo’s opinions and techniques have appeared on E! Entertainment, WGN, FOX, CBS and ABC TV as well as in radio stations, spas and business schools across the country.

Notes from the Universe

26 Jul


Greetings, everyone! I wanted to pass along a wonderful website that I found via the fanTASTIC blog, Medicinal Marzipan – which, if you need a self-love pick-me-up (and who doesn’t, sometimes??) is really worth a visit – called Notes from the Universe! (I thought a dramatic title deserved a dramatic text accent.)

What are the Notes from the Universe? It’s a daily (or however frequent you would like) blast of email affirmation that is sure to bring a smile to your face during the summer drag or winter doldrums – not that it goes out of style during any other part of the year, of course.

Here’s what the author, Mike Dooley, had to say about the notes:

“The Notes are designed to shed light on your own inner path: to spark your memory, attract like thinking, and awaken the slumbering deity within. They contain the truths I’ve come to know and live by about who we are, why we’re here, and the magic at our disposal. Everything I’ve discovered is neatly tucked between the paragraphs, and for the eager, earnest reader, far more meaning will be found therein than will first meet the eye.”

You can personalize it so it shoots some tailor-made goodness, as well. Here’s an example of a recent Note that I received:

With self-confidence, Tara, the world bows to greet you and coincidence becomes your partner.

And self-confidence comes from loving yourself.

And loving yourself comes from knowing that you are, still, exactly who I most want to be.

And so I am,
The Universe

How sweet is that?

I am a firm believer that self-manifestation is an extremely powerful tool. While bending the forces of time and space could be considered a stretch, having a fantastic attitude and a positive outlook towards life will go a surprisingly long way. While this goes for the attitude you’ll have when facing down tasks and mingling with others, I’ve found that shooting positivity out into the world can help you meet your goals as well! Whether or not it is a divine force switching events to work in my favor or just the fact that an added boost of confidence can make all the difference – and it works.

Here’s a personal example: A few months ago, I was up for a big interview. It was an interview by committee, so if I wasn’t nervous before, I certainly was then. A mentor of mine mock-interviewed me and even then I was so anxious that my knees were shaking and my hands became damp and clammy. I was a mess.

She (and some google-fu) gave me helpful, albeit obvious advice: Rather than considering what could go wrong and how under-prepared you are, consider how much could go right. Rather than lamenting the items that aren’t on your resumé, consider all the achievements that are. Instead of convincing yourself that you aren’t good enough, remind your inner detractor that you do, in fact, deserve what you’re aiming for. For extra ammunition, give evidence.

Afterwards, count your blessings. (Slowed Down Sundays, anyone?) Realize that it isn’t the end of the world – all they can say is no, and so what? There are other chances. If it doesn’t work out for you, remember all the good things that you have.

I walked into that interview with my head held high – I certainly worked hard to earn the right to interview but if I didn’t get the position, I’d survive. Things were going well enough for me that my general state of being wouldn’t be derailed and I could continue on, content and satisfied. I ended up getting the position – and I think going in calm, composed and positive deserves more than part of the credit.

Just for kicks, here’s another Note from the Universe:

In case you didn’t know, you couldn’t tell, or you haven’t heard, if you’re reading this right now on a computer, Tara, you’re rich. If you have somewhere to go today, you’re connected. And if there is anyone, anywhere, who for any reason knows where you are in this moment, you are loved.

Dang, you just keep acing time and space.

Big time,
The Universe

Amen to that.



Phenomenal Woman – Maya Angelou

9 Jun

Maya Angelou is a woman close to my heart. I still remember being a child and picking one of her poetry books off of my mother’s shelf (it had a striking cover that attracted me instantly) I also connected to her memoirs, specifically Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now and Even the Stars Look Lonesome. Even so, the poem that stuck with me the most is Phenomenal Woman:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Is there any poetry you particularly enjoy? Let me know in the comments.



ps – don’t forget to nominate me for a Black Weblog Award. For more info, click here.

Mid-Summer Check-Up – 42 Fun Activities to Give Your Vacation a Boost

7 Jun


So! For all of you that are school-aged and on your summer vacation, we’re partway through! Depending on where you attend school, your summer may actually be just starting. For those of us who have been on break, are you still amped for summer or is the enthusiasm starting to die down? Are you still chock full of ideas or are you finding yourself spending your days vegging on the couch watching awful daytime television? For the people who are just starting their vacation, do you have anything planned or have you only gotten as far as “get a job”, “sleep in” and “ice cream for breakfast”? Here are over 40 ideas to help you get started or keep your summer going strong!

Simple Fun

♥ Have a picnic – fresh fruit is in season! Get some sparkling cider, get some fruit and lay out in the sunshine on a checkered blanket. Cheese, egg sandwiches and the like are purely optional!

♥ Get a bottle of bubbles from a dollar store and make rainbows!

♥ Find a children’s playground and indulge yourself on the swings (& monkey bars could be a great arm workout – just sayin’)

♥ Get some soda pop, bubble gum and a stack of two dollar comic books.

♥ Have a fashion show with some of your closest friends – and document it with photos!

♥ Flirt with someone – same-sex, opposite sex, ten years older, whatever. It’s all good, (somewhat) clean fun.

♥ Get some sexy underwear – I am partial to Frederick’s, personally – and spend some quality alone time with yourself. Bonus points if you indulge in decadent lotion and other forms of self-pampering.

♥ Get a squirt gun – perfect for sudden cool downs or an impromptu water fight

♥ Zone out with a sleep mask and a pair of headphones

♥ Pick a bright, summery color and paint your fingers and toes

Be Creative

♥ Go to your local video store and check out a movie you’ve never seen – maybe in a different language. Watch it and dissect it like a snooty critic.

♥ Make morning smoothies, tailoring a personalized recipe for whatever health issue you may have.

♥ Make a mix CD filled with songs from your childhood – for me, it would be *NSYNC, Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls, Robyn, B*Witched, S Club 7 and the like. Make yourself some childhood snacks (PB&J and Kool-Aid, anyone?) and savor your youth.

♥ Purchase a basket of hanging flowers and work at keeping them flourishing and happy

♥ Take a pair of ill-fitting jeans and turn them into shorts

♥ Check a cookbook or crafting book out of the library and try something out

Get Out

♥ Find the neighborhood swimming pool and take a dip

♥ Take a walk in the park – bonus points if you leave your iPod at home and take in nature’s soundtrack

♥ Practice guerrilla gardening and spruce up your local pavement

♥ Find a museum you’ve never been to, even if you aren’t necessarily interested in the subject. Many of them have discount days!

♥ Look out for the tourist attractions in your very own city – you never know what to do in your own backyard

♥ Stop by a flea market and buy jangly bracelets, gigantic rings and statement necklaces.

♥ Make some lemonade and spread out in a pair of cute underwear under a strong fan

♥ Relax with a tall glass of ice water (with lime or lemon on the side) and a great book

♥ Throw yourself a personal party to celebrate your radiance and fabulousness. Make yourself a card and/or a cake. Get candles too! Maybe even a present!

♥ Gather up some friends, buy a map and get your show on the road

Help Out

♥ Clean out your closet and sell your clothing on Ebay or at the local consignment store. If it doesn’t sell, donate it to the local Goodwill.

♥ Help the elderly with basic chores and learning basic skills.

♥ Offer your services on Craigslist or freelance gigs

♥ Carpool with a friend and save on the gas!

♥ Skip the gym membership and take a run outside – make sure to have the proper sun precautions though!

♥ Volunteer at your local library and help children read

♥ Make a heightened commitment to going green

Learn Something New

♥ Take a short-term class at the local community college and learn a skill

♥ Visit videojug and learn skills like sewing, makeup application, home upkeep and gardening

♥ Learn to do a cartwheel, handstand or a split! (All of those are on my personal list)

♥ Plant some vegetables and foster a greater appreciation for where your foods come from

♥ Take an art class – I took a pottery wheel class and it was incredibly fun

♥ Learn the dance from your favorite music video. (Bad Romance, maybe?)

♥ Make some choices that put you out of your comfort zone, like a zany haircut, a new experience or different food

♥ Learn how to spell your name in a different script

♥ Attend a cultural event for a culture you are at least somewhat unfamiliar with and learn something new

Do you have any ideas? Let me know in the comments.



ps – don’t forget to nominate me for a Black Weblog Award. For more info, click here.

Four Ways to Get Fit This Summer (That You Might Not Have Heard of)

24 May

Summer is almost here! And of course, for many people, with summer comes shorter, skimpier clothing and the big one – swimsuits! But even if that isn’t your thing, summer is a great time to get up and get fit. With the weather looking spectacular, there’s added incentive to head outside and do something fun. Plus, there’s always benefit to regular exercise – why not make it fun?

While there are ways to work out that you may already know about (I’m talking running, swimming, biking…), it’s summer – so why not try something new? Here are some methods of exercise you may not have heard of, or may not have tried.

For: The Girl who wants cardio but dreads the treadmill

Try: Zumba

I tried Zumba for the first time earlier this month and I was immediately hooked. It’s exhilarating and fun and after that hour was up, I didn’t want to leave! Zumba is a dance class that borrows moves from Latin, Bhangra and Dancehall styles to create a unique cardio experience. There is a Zumba class for every need, from resistance Zumba to water Zumba – even Zumba for kids! As for me, I just like the plain old original flavor.

You can find out more about Zumba on their official website, where you can find a class or buy their official DVDs.

◊ For: The girl looking for a unique, low-impact workout

Try: Bellydancing


Belly dance – a strange thing to call it since you use your entire body – has an uncertain origin. The name belly dance is generally dated to Chicago in 1893, but it certainly predates that. It involves isolating different parts of your body to dance, while focusing on the hip and pelvic area.  I have found that doing belly dance does wonders for your body confidence, and can make you feel gorgeous and seductive at a range of ages and sizes.

Bellydancing is a non-impact exercise, so if you’re recovering from an injury or you’re just getting on the fitness wagon, this is a great place to start! Isolating the torso emphasizes flexibility, and it can also build strength in your upper body, arms and shoulders.

Learn more at these websites.

For: The girl who wants to play like a kid again

Try: Hooping


“Hooping” is the term for hula hooping with large, weighted hoops. While you can buy weighted (and collapsable) hoops online, you can make your own pretty easily as well. I know that I had difficulties hula hooping as a child, but the advantages to larger, weighted hoops is that they rotate more slowly, making them easier to keep up. Plus, the weight gives you great exercise and a nice massage! (Trust me, I speak from experience)

To make it even more fun, I like to play music from my child hood – hooping to Destiny’s Child and the Spice Girls does wonders for a bad mood. I’m even trying to figure out how to hula hoop while doing the Macarena. We’ll see how that goes.

For more info on Hooping, check out

◊ For: The girl who wants to ramp up her yoga

Try: Bikram Yoga


This one is on my to-do list! Bikram Yoga (also known as “hot yoga”) is a yoga practice originating in the early 1970s that emphasizes an unchanging sequence of postures in a heated room. Often times the room can be heated up to 100 degrees.

Of all the exercises I have listed, this one is probably the most strenuous and initially difficult. Even if you’re a master yogi, proceed with caution in your first Bikram session.  Dress lightly and bring water, because you’re certainly going to sweat. Stay mindful of your body, and stop if you feel dizzy, light headed or tired.

For more info on Bikram and to find a class near you, check out their official website.

Do you have any fun fitness ideas you want to try? Other plans? Let me know in the comments!



Bulletproof Heart: Grace Jones

17 May
Grace Jones Fierce

I first learned of Grace Jones in the movie Boomerang, where she played the eccentric model Helen Strangé (who could forget her crazy perfume commercial? Video a bit NSFW, btw). Through VH1 specials and magazine articles, I gained a curiosity about this woman who grew into a full-on fascination.

To be honest, this post has taken me a while. I was going to write this post simply about a recent interview I had read. Afterwards, I found out that this Wednesday, May 19th, will be Grace’s 62nd birthday. In honor of that occasion, I have pushed this post until today. During my research, I read through Grace Jones’ personal website, which is primarily collected photographs accompanied by quotes from Grace throughout the years. I find many of these quotes very powerful, so they I have included them as well. You can find more of these quotes at her official website, linked at the bottom of this post. The source for the magnificent photos can also be found at the end of the post.

Here, mere mortals, is a brief primer to the force that is Grace Jones – one of the most inspiring women ever, in my humble opinion.


Grace Jones was born in Jamaica on May 19th, 1948, to Marjorie and Robert W. Jones in a religious, Christian household. She cites her strict upbringing as a driving force in her persona. Her family relocated to Syracuse, New York in 1965.

Her music career started in 1977, where she secured a record deal with Island Records and she created a large gay following with her string of disco albums. She was also a muse to Andy Warhol and a common presence at the legendary Studio 54 Nightclub where she would sometimes be found performing. Grace was an early adopter of the New Wave music style in the late 1970s as she reinvented herself to the style that many are familiar with to this day. After creating a partnership with Jean-Paul Goude, she adopted the well-known androgynous look that would become her trademark, complete with square-cut hair and angular, striking clothing.

Since then, her career has flourished, as she has reached acclaim with her talents in modeling, singing, performing and acting, in both television and on film. Her persona itself, however, is a world-famous entity on its own.


Grace Jones is an extremely striking figure, standing at 5’10 1/2, adorned with a crew-cut haircut, originally favored solely by men. Her manner of androgynous dress influenced the cross-dressing movement of the 1980s, including artists such as Annie Lennox. Also, while her music reached further acclaim in Europe than in the United States, she has left a lasting legacy in the recording world as well.

She exemplified a completely different image of a black woman, defying the archetypes of a Mamie or even the Black glamour queen in the model of Diana Ross. She was quoted as saying, “I think I’m doing a service to Black women by portraying myself as a sex machine. I mean, what’s wrong with being a sex machine, darling? Sex is large, sex is live, so it should appeal to anyone that’s living.”

While I have admitted to being highly influenced by the classic elegance and style of women such as Josephine Baker, Eartha Kitt and Lena Horne, the outlandish space cadet inside of me will always have a soft spot for Grace Jones. Her forward-thinking nature and irreverent zest for life is refreshing in a sea of perfectly coiffed dolls. She has hardly aged and continues to be an unstoppable force of nature to this day. This Guardian interview from April will attest to that fact and I love her all the more for it.

And as she says:


Happy Birthday, Grace.




Pictures sourced from Google as well as Fuck Yeah Grace Jones. Quotes sourced from her official website, The World of Grace Jones.